Auto Sales Climb In May, GM Gains Despite Recalls

Jun 3 2014, 9:48am CDT | by

May was a winner for U.S. automakers as Chrysler, Ford Motor and General Motors each reported upbeat monthly sales figures Tuesday.

“[O]ur dealers reported brisk May sales over five weekends and the Memorial Day holiday,” said Chrysler’s U.S. sales chief Reid Bigland, after the Fiat-controlled automaker sold 194,421 vehicles in the month, a 17% increase from a year earlier. Chrysler projects industry-wide U.S. sales for May at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 16.9 million, That would be the best year since 2006.

Trucks were the driving force for Chrysler, up 38% versus a 27% year-over-year decline for the company’s car brands. Year-to-date, Chrysler sales are up 13% from the comparable period in 2013.

Ford said its sales rose 3% in May to 254,084, more than expected for the company’s best May in a decade. The company sold more than 20,000 Ford Explorers for the first time since 2005, with the brand’s sales up 21% from a year ago. Sales of F-series trucks, which include the F-150, were down 4.3% in May. Overall, Ford’s vehicle sales are down slightly in 2014, running at a pace 0.9% below that of a year ago.

GM, meanwhile, recorded a 12.6% sales increase in May, well above expectations, even as it deals with the fallout from a slew of safety-related recalls in recent months. Chevy sales rose 14% and overall the company said May was its best sales month since August 2008, when the company was spiraling toward bankruptcy.

“The momentum we generated in April carried into May, with all four brands performing well in a growing economy,” said GM’s VP of U.S. sales Kurt McNeil. The company estimated the industry’s annual sales pace at 16.5 million in May and also noted that its incentive spending was down from a year ago.

Read Joann Muller’s feature on Mary Barra and the mission to fix GM’s latest flaws from the latest issue of Forbes.
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Shares of Ford opened higher Tuesday morning, up 1.3%, while GM gained 1.6%. The stock market has clearly preferred Ford to its bigger Detroit rival this year, with shares of the former up 8% as GM has fallen 13% amid its recall woes. Meanwhile, U.S.-listed shares of Chrysler parent Fiat are up 26% in 2014.

GM data by YCharts

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